Who picks the Swedish and Finnish blueberries? A great deal of them is picked by foreign migrant workers.
“Today the Swedish berry-picking industry is dependent on foreign seasonal migrant workers from China, Thailand, Viet Nam and such Eastern European countries as Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine, among others. Foreign workers represent more than 80 per cent of the labour force in the berry-picking industry … . Outside of the European Union, Thailand sends the largest number of migrant workers to Sweden to pick berries…“ (Vanaspong 2012: 13).
Whole farming families from Thailand have to mortgage their land and pay „recruting fees“ to private labour recruting agencies in Thailand, so that they can send members of the family to Sweden to earn money. The workers arrive in July, are placed in camps and have to work very long hours picking berries in the woods for Swedish companies. Because of increasing recruitment fees, additional fees the workers are forced to pay in Sweden, high and increasing living cost in Sweden, together with bad crops, a lot of workers return to Thailand with considerable depts.
(Source: Vanaspong, C. (2012): A Case Study of Thai Migrant Workers Exploited in Sweden. Manila: ILO).
Here is a youtube video giving an impression of how the situation of the workers was and – according to Vanaspong (2012) – still is.
Here is another video.